After a Year Battling Cancer, Teacher Shares Her Journey of Healing

Logan teacher

After a year working with the cancer team at Logan Regional Hospital, Ashlena Johnson says she wouldn't go anywhere else. "The entire experience was phenomenal," says Ashlena, who is a fifth grade teacher.

Confronting Cancer

Last March while in her classroom at Lewiston Elementary School, Ashlena first noticed something was wrong. Her eyes started to droop and she had a bad headache and dilated pupils. From there, everything happened quickly: She went from Logan's InstaCare to the Logan Regional emergency department, had a biopsy taken the next day, and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer that targets the immune system. Two weeks later she met with Logan oncologist Sarunas Sliesoraitis, DO.

Ashlena says her first conversation with Dr. Sliesoraitis gave her the courage to keep moving forward. He gave her an overview of what would happen in cancer treatment, both the good and the bad. Then, every two weeks for six months she received chemotherapy at Logan's infusion services while still working as a teacher and raising a two-year-old with her husband.
She mentions gratitude for the Logan caregivers who treated her like family. "All the oncology nurses were great — in particular, Jen Mosteller and Mitzi Fish. They always smiled and greeted me by name, which meant a lot," she says. Julie Bennet, the nurse navigator, was also great about answering questions and helping her feel normal.
Ashlena says one thing she didn't expect was to be in a mindfulness support group with other cancer patients. Mandy Donovan, clinic manager, helped put together the group and Ashlena also worked with a therapist on her own.
"Just driving by the hospital would make me feel sick and I'd get anxious thinking about chemo," she says. "I've learned through mindfulness the idea of being aware and allowing yourself to accept whatever you're feeling, instead of getting worked up by the dread and fear."
Today Ashlena has finished chemotherapy and is hopeful her health will keep improving. She continues to teach and loves it (in fact she recently won Teacher of the Year at Lewiston Elementary). She says she has more of a "carpe diem" attitude and is looking forward to new adventures.
Learn more about Intermountain's cancer services.